Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Class Reflection and Critique


In the start of the class while reading through the syllabus, I was surprised to learn that attendance was not required for students. I do believe that this is a both a good and bad thing. Students who come to the university are not forced to come here. They are adults and if they think coming to class has value they should come. Others may decide not to come, and they should know the costs of not attending class. People learn in different methods, while some need a lecture type setting others could learn better simply through reading on their own, etc hence might prefer not to come to class. That being said, I think the whole point of college is to go for class, and learn in that environment in the presence of a teacher, that fosters critical thinking and learning that is beyond what a textbook contains. Certainly there is a social aspect to college of meeting new people and growing as an individual but your primary objective is to learn. For people who do not want to, I dont see why they would waste their money and come to college. Coming to class also fosters a good learning environment and for a class like this that relies heavily on group participation, I think attendance should be made mandatory. In another class that I have that also relies on group discussion more than just the teacher lecturing the students there is attendance points. I think making attendance a small portion of the grade would incentivise students to come to class. Most students know that coming to class is beneficial for them, but sometimes may weigh other things such (work, sleep, chilling, etc) above attending class. Incentivising attendance would make students come to class more often. For a group discussion like this class, if more people are present the discussion would be richer as there would be more people participating and contributing ideas to the class. This would make learning for everyone more meaningful in my opinion. 

Mandatory or incentivised attendance, for example, a 5% attendance and participation weight to the final letter grade should be supplemented with a no technology policy. I think most students, myself included use portable devices in class for non-class specific work. Meaning most often students use their laptops for simple surfing of the web or social media, checking email or doing other work not related to the class. Granted many people use their laptops for taking notes and like to follow the class sides, etc but from my experience, most people can study and learn without needing laptops. Since freshman year, I have seen a marked difference in this rule, as more teachers are reverting back to a technology free classroom. As I have mentioned before, one class I am currently in, BADM 449 does not allow for technology in the classroom and has a negative consequence of using it. The negatives of using technology in class are that students do not concentrate and actively participate in class discussion if they are focused on their laptops. The students should be both physically and mentally present and pay attention to class and I think technology being allowed is more of a distraction than a benefit to learning.

Because of the no attendance and technology policy of this class, my behavior was not too different compared to other classes. I feel I came to class regularly despite the no attendance policy. However, skipping class had no consequence and thus I could miss class without too much worry if something urgent came up or more pressing matters required my attention. I did however notice that attendance was rather poor for this particular class. Since attendance was not mandatory, many people felt by doing the work and studying on their own they would be able to do the course. Since technology was allowed, most people who came to class had their laptops in front of them. Again from experience and observation, most of the students are doing nonclass related work. This hindered the discussion we were having as people would be clueless to the discussion on hand on would not contribute in lieu of continuing to use their laptops. This led to many silences wherein the teacher had to prompt students to answer questions to move the discussion forward. There wasn't an organic flow of discussion happening, I presume this would be different if everyone was focusing and concentrating in the class. 

This semester, having taken courses that have a combination of attendance and technology policies, my advice would be to make this class technology free and make attendance incentivised. As a student, I feel this is the best approach to learning in the long run and makes the class more interesting as well. Yes, initially it will be disliked by students but I think it should implemented. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Personal Reputation

I have been playing football (not American football, but soccer) since I was a child and thus have a good reputation when it comes to the sport. Playing for various school teams back home, I was often lauded for my good ball control and shooting skills. Through the multiple years of playing football and often times being a key player in the matches, my reputation as a football player grew considerably amongst my friends, peers and even teachers and family. I think reputation does affect behavior both in a positive and negative manner. If one lets hos or her reputation get to their head, then they might act arrogantly or deviate from the original goal and get sidetracked. But having a good reputation with the right attitude according to me keeps the person motivated to do his or her best so that they can meet and surpass the reputation already set in place for them.

After coming to college, my footballing reputation developed further as I began to play more often and even formed a team in intramurals, which performed very well. I think developing your reputation in football is easy since all one has to do is play. If they are good and influence the game in a positive manner, the reputation should grow automatically as more people become aware of your skills, want you in their team while choosing sides and can be objectively assessed by the number of goals scored, as I play a striker position. Since football is not the dominant sport on campus, fewer people play it and most play it for fun, thus the level of competition is not too high. In such a situation I found that even a player like me could gain a positive reputation.

I do not actively seek to enhance my reputation, but do strive to improve my game and play better football. This in turn should or would enhance my reputation automatically. I feel actions speak louder than words and reputation is built solely upon action and performance. Thus to build your reputation, one should focus on doing the task well, efficient, and in a timely manner.

Yes, there are quite a few occasions where having a good reputation can be bothersome and sometimes you try to avoid it. For example, during intramurals when our team is awarded a penalty, I was asked to take it. Although I did not feel confident and didn’t want to take the penalty I was pressurized into taking the penalty kick due to my “reputation” of being a very good player. I did not want the responsibility of the penalty since if it missed we would loose the game and be knocked out of the tournament. Thankfully, I did not miss that particular kick, but I was not happy with the added responsibility of taking penalty kicks. Thus having a good reputation can be harmful, as people will expect you to do more work at a consistently high level. Continuing with the football example, during my second year I was asked to join one of the top intramural teams that had won the previous year. This offer was due to my reputation, but I did not join said team and instead continued to play with my previous team. Here I tried to abandon my reputation as a good football player and instead of joining the new team that were the favorites, I “cashed” in and stayed with my old team. This was because although my reputation got me a better prospect of joining the best team, I stayed because I enjoyed playing the low-pressure game with my friends where having fun was the primary objective.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Principal Agent Problem

The principal-agent problem occurs when one party is given the right or authority to make decisions that impact the principal. Most often, the principal puts the agent is a position wherein conflict arises due to a non-alignment in objectives of the two people. With today's changing team structures and more dynamic work, the model can be better optimized to reflect a triangular structure, one where an agent deals with multiple principals. This is very much true in today's circumstances where there are more channels of control than just a single manager or principal.

A simple principal-agent problem that I have witnessed and been involved with is during consulting work for the on-campus organization OTCR consulting, there is often problems is how to handle the work. As the consultants ourselves we are the agents, and have a few different principles. Firstly, the client who is paying us and expects a job to be done is our primary principal, but then is also the firm itself and the managers and partners within OTCR who are principles as well. This dual principle nature often leads to greater problems. As the principals objectives are different, they both expect different outcomes. In this situation, both principles wanted good quality from the agents, but there were still differences which led to problems. The firm wants us to act and perform the tasks as per the contract and statement of work. The client on the other hand, as the scope changed wanted different information and analysis. Thus the specific duty changed as per one of our principal's wishes. Other dissimilarities in objectives that would arise are timing vs quality of work, etc. Of course as with principal-agent problem, the main problem arises from the agent themselves, thus the agent or consultant in this case, would differ in objectives and thus maybe not work as hard or efficiently if they were the principals.

Although here, the client would be the more important principal it would depend on situation to situation. I think wherever there are multiple principals, the one that is the bigger customer would be the principal and the agent should try satisfying both, but should prioritize one depending on what they seem fit. There are certainly multiple ways to solving the problem, depending on each situation. Of the best methods to solve this problem would be to bring both principles together and mutually decide on a solution that the agent should work towards. This should ensure that that the agent works in accordance with both principles. A contract or written document prior to starting said work would greatly help in establishing the guidlines and what each party should expect out of the transaction.

If the agent satisfies one principal, they can certainly ignore the other or worse, perform opposite to what the second principal wanted. For example, if the Client wanted to promote advertising and brand recognition and asked OTCR to spearhead its marketing efforts. If this was an arbitrary target we had to reach without any measurable data(such as viewers or users) and OTCR wanted us to keep our budget and expenses low. As agents we could spend less in advertising material thus doing a good job according to principal managers of OTCR but would not do too well from the clients perspective of spreading the brand name.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Work Conflict in the TV show Suits

The conflict I will be writing about is regarding the tv show Suits, which revolves around the lives of a few top lawyers in new york from one if the most prestigious law firms. To detail the conflict, I will first give a few details and backstory of the main characters in the tv show and how their story line is essential for the conflict. Mike is a sharp and smart man, who has eidetic memory and is also a brilliant lawyer. However, due to some illegal activities (taking the LSATS for other people), he was expelled from college and barred from taking the LSAT himself and thus could not become a lawyer. Due to his exceptional talent and passion for becoming a lawyer,  he managed to impress Harvey Spectre, one of the top lawyers and get hired, despite the lack of credentials. The series thus follows Mike and Harvey as they work case to case, while also dealing with the growth of the company and their rising positions, while keeping his secret under wraps.

The majority of workplace conflict is inter-personal conflict arising from miscommunication, misunderstanding and inappropriate behaviors. This type of conflict is common as it would hard to eliminate such errors due to the nature of human communication itself. However, some conflict arises from when people in the firm want two different objectives and thus compete aginst one another to get their desired or more favorable outcome. The conflict I will be talking about will cover both of these issues at the same time.

The conflict is that during one case Mike and Harvey are working on, they are to prosecute an illegal lawyer who due to not having a certification had his license revoked and thus would be sent to jail and all the cases he worked on reopened if they managed to prosecute him. This one case provided a lot of conflict between the two main characters, Mike and Harvey as they had different methods of going about the case. In addition, Mike, due to his own background felt sympathy for the lawyer and was in two minds to help solve the case in the first place or not. The conflict initially arises because Mike felt that Harvey was too harsh and this one case would ruin the man's career. He was a good lawyer, who was about to retire in a few months and just because of a few certifications, he would be arrested on grounds of malpractice. Mike thought that since most of his work was good, they should just let the case slip thereby saving the man's reputation and all the cases he's worked on. This arose conflict as Harvey wanted to take the case as try to finish it like a professional without showing any empathy.

Now from an outsiders perspective, which aligns with the two perspectives of the main characters it is a morally ambiguous situation. The lawyer in question was a good one, who was on the end of his career. If they let it go like Mike wanted, then his reputation and the cases would remain as is, thus not causing too much damage. (Note, he was a good lawyer and thus the cases he solved would mostly be correct and the outcome would not change even if it were looked at again by another lawyer). Contrary to this argument is the one that Harvey has, as lawyer themselves they should take professional duty and responsibility above all else and even if he was good lawyer, he was still breaking the laws which exist to protect the people and thus should take the case and do it to best of their abilities.

The other point to be made was the emotional side of the conflict, which brings into question of Mike owns situation which in some respects is very similar if not exactly the same. Mike feels angry at Harvey for simply following the case, and questions whether he would receive the same treatment as well. This conflict festered until a breaking point as there was no middle ground to be taken, thus Harvey being the senior lawyer and morally right got his way, and the lawyer was prosecuted. The conflict ended, but with Mike feeling more vulnerable about his position, with just a few spoken assurances from Harvey that he won't let a similar situation befall Mike. I feel this conflict was inevitable given the background of the candidates and the nature of the case being so similar to what Mike is doing (fraud). I also feel the outcome of this conflict was more geared towards how it ended as Mike would just have to make peace with his wrongdoings and hope there would be a way out of his situation in the future. Another way this conflict would not arise would be if Harvey never hired Mike in the first episode of the series. For all the talk about taking morally correct decisions, Harvey should not have hired Mike knowing he lacks the certifications in order to become a legal lawyer, he was however blown aways by Mike's brilliance and made an error in judgment. Thus if Harvey never hired Mike the conflict would not arise, then again the entire show would not exist as well.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Team Production Benefit through Gift Exchange

The articles here are very interesting, especially the third one in regards to the power of altruism. I found it interesting to know that a study conducted revealed that for children, the propensity to help other reduces if they are rewarded with a gift. This shows the true nature of children, wherein people try to do good, or act ethically even without any monetary compensation. The example where the number of absence days given to firefighters being limited also shows a similar theme. When there was no penalty to their pay if they took a leave, people had an ethical reason, for the good of the society to not skip work and only take leave when actually sick. When this was changed to having their pay docked, people no longer took their work as a social good and instead only for monetary reasons. Thus during times of holiday, such as Christmas the number of sick leaves rose. This is due to people placing a dollar amount on their work done and during special times would rather take a pay cut. Such thinking over the years has reduced the altruistic nature of people and makes them more money orientated. Recently there has been a shift into moving to an altruistic way. Many companies have recently allowed people to work from home and take sick leaves without a pay cut. Contrary to what many people thought, the number of holidays taken actually reduced. This is because people had the ethic and self-motivation to work and contribute through team production even though they could have taken a holiday without any pay cut. The reason why people do this can is because they feel obligated, or motivated to do their work. People who work more will have better chances of an increased salary, promotion or bonus at the year end. Thus, the trick is to make acting for the greater good, ie team production should also be beneficial to the individual.

One of my classes which I am currently taking, BADM 395 encourages students to participate in a manner that promotes team production through gift exchange. Here, the teacher provides a question bank out of which questions in the midterm and final exams come from. It is difficult to solve each question on your own and then study, but as per the teacher's recommendation, if people collaborate then studying becomes easier. The professor told us that us that we can and should collaborate with our classmates to get the answer the questions. For proof that collaboration works, our professor told us that when students exchanged study material, the % of students who got A's increased. Compared to a year where there was to communication and collaboration between students and thus only one student managed to do well in the class and get an A, thus making it harder.

One example that I can think of regarding team production through gift exchange is that off getting rewards for referrals. There was this scheme for a product where a person got $100 dollars for providing the referral to another person who signs up to the service. The sign up cost $15 and took 5 minutes to complete. In such a setting, the person will not sign up or if he is newly signing up has no reason to use the referral code as he is not getting any value added. On the other hand, the other person also gets nothing since his referral code was not used. Here both parties are in losses. Similar to the article where the kids pull the strings to get candy and then divide it, here also there is value in team production. If the first person offers the other some incentive, such as $30 out of the $100 then the person would most likely use the referral code. Here through simple gift exchange, the production of both individuals increased.

Team production and effort can also be detrimental in certain situations when there is a share the spoils mentality as mentioned in the article titled, "How to get the rich to share the marbles". When there is group effort or collaboration, sometimes some people do not put in as much work. Their work will be done by the other people to make up as, in the end they all receive the same benefits. Thus innovation and extra effort will be stagnant. This is why modern workplace has incentives set up. If there is no incentive for doing better work or helping the poor, it will not happen. Thus the only way to get the rich to share the spoils and help the poor is to make it in their best interest to do so. Referring to the altruistic nature of humans, for some that is enough and thus people who are wealthy donate their wealth to charity and other organization for the benefit of others. For some people, thus feeling of altruism is lower and thus there should be incentives to stimulate them to help those in a lower position.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Managing Future Income Risk

Currently being a senior, I have started to think about managing my money and how I spend it as I will be graduating soon. Since I am yet to find a full time job, there remains a high level of uncertainty regarding my future and what income I may get, if any at all. As an international student, there are other concerns I face, such as sending money back home to India, and the possibility of earning a significantly reduced salary if I have to work in my home country. (the starting salary and standard of living is much-much less in India compared to the United States.

Some of the decisions I have made thus far have been to hopefully better manage my future income risk. When I initially joined the University, I was an undeclared major in the division of general studies (DGS) and was hoping to either major in Finance or Architecture, as those two fields were where my passion was. However, during my first year I learnt that Architecture majors have a tough time finding a job. The unemployment rate for architecture has been steadily increasing and to attain the complete architecture degree, one requires around 4 years of additional study and mentorship training after competing the bachelor’s degree. Finance majors also, on average have a higher starting salary than Architecture majors and all these factors combined led to pursue Finance. Thus to get accepted into the college of business and study Finance, I may a decision that will hopefully be better and carries less risk for my future income.

The average salary for a Finance graduate from the University of Illinois is around $55,000-$60,000. In order to hopefully get a higher salary or better chance at landing the job, I had interned at various financial services companies during my three summer terms. Again, the decision to intern rather than spend the summer doing other activities was to reduce my future income risk, by trying to get a leg up in terms of experience compared to other students.

Yes, I have accumulated a certain amount of debt to pay form my tuition costs and living expenses. My parents have been able to finance a part of my college tuition, but the remainder is through student loans. I have worked at different places on campus, such as in the student-dining hall in my first year and as lab assistant during my junior year to earn money and reduce the debt owed. Although these jobs did not pay to well, it was a way to reduce my current expenses in college and thus save money for the long term.

With the above being said, I have taken many of decisions that although are detrimental to reducing my future risk, were choices to enjoy in the here and now. Every time I indulge in activities that are just for fun. For example, for our last thanksgiving in college we are deciding to go out of campus and spend the week at Las Vegas.

Yes, I have an older brother who graduated from Michigan State University. He was majoring in hospitality business and although got a well paying job in the Michigan area, decided to pursue his passion for music. This came as a huge shock to all of us, because pursuing a career in music has a lot of risk financially. Earning a steady and stable income takes longer initially and more so in this career path. Finding his niche in the music industry itself took a year and now that he’s narrowed down his path he can manage his priorities better.
To remain financially independent my brother has taken to recording voiceovers for various commercials.
On average he also performs twice a month at the Jazz clubs and lounges in and around New Delhi through which he can live a comfortable lifestyle.
However to maintain an even more comfortable standard of living he wishes to move to the commercial capital of the country in Bombay where the Indian equivalent of Hollywood is located, where he would find more opportunities to build a better platform for himself as a professional singer.
One positive I take back from his life is to follow your passion. Future income risks can be managed with a passionate drive backed by a plan along each step of the way.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Reflection Post

Reviewing all the blog posts that I have written in this class so far, it is evident that they all share a common theme. The connection is that they are all about economics, and more specifically about the economics behind the decisions faced by individuals in groups and teams.

For our first post, I wrote about my experiences working for an organization. The discussion was based more on the organizational structure of the firm and the transaction costs incurred during the hiring of a new employee. The main discussion was regarding the level of authority individuals have compared to the managers and what is an optimal level to balance the quality of work with timelines. The other was comparing the transaction costs of hiring externally vs hiring through an intern pool. All these points focus on finding the right balance or the best solution for the organization as a whole, instead of looking at individual benefit. The second week's post was connected to the individual’s behavior. I talked about the example of picking up money from the street and the opportunity cost of doing so. I then moved onto a more ethical approach as to why people indulge in opportunistic behavior. The post on team organization is connected with the other prompts, as it is also about teamwork, and how a well-organized team is highly functional. Connecting it to the previous post, a well-organized team depends on the structure of the organization, and in turn the team. The structure is thus highly important in forming a functional team that leverages all its members and resources to produce the optimum output. The last post I made was about the Illini Bucks system, and how the system could be used for various reasons on campus.

Aside from the prompts itself, the blog posts were very closely related to some of the themes as discussed in class. The example I gave regarding the behavior when one finds a wallet in the post on opportunistic behavior closely resembles the coordination games we discussed in class wherein each player has the choice of keeping or returning the wallet, and how over the long run, if there is coordination, the total outcome is better as compared to when there is no coordination. I did not notice this connection earlier, as we had still not studied many of the coordination games. But after looking at the post again, I could easily relate the two concepts of opportunistic behavior and coordination. The Illini Bucks post is also a parallel to the transfer pricing we learnt in class. The pricing is also based on the market movements of demand and supply, which is a pure economic concept.

Yes, I feel my writing process has definitely improved since starting to write these blog posts. The reason for this is because of the additional time I spend in writing the blog posts. Before even beginning to write, I read the prompt and think about the topic in detail. I try to gather and organize my thoughts and roughly outline the flow of my blog post before even starting to write. Initially, I had skipped this step and started to write the post as soon as I read the prompt. By reading the prompt first, thinking about what I will be writing helps to make the post be better organized. In addition, I also read some of my classmates posts before starting to write my own, so that any thought or points I may have missed will also be covered by me. I think because of the change in my process, the blog posts have more detail in them and are organized in a better way. If the prompt is closely related to what we have studied in class, I also read the class material to better understand the concepts and try and relate the posts with some of the material learnt in class.

I feel the prompts are already very good. They are not too specific or broad in nature, which allows us to write about the intended topic, but gives a variety so that each post can be uniquely interesting. Many of the post also require us to give examples of our own experiences, which make the discussion more interesting and relatable. I would like to see a bit more of a direct connection to the concepts taught in class as that would supplement the learning material.